How to Approach a Blogger

Writing an email may seem like a no-brainer, but these days I get A LOT of emails, many which make me groan or twinge. But email can be a really wonderful thing as well. So in honor of Labor Day (US) and la rentrée (France), I though I’d put together a post to break down the apparently not always so obvious art of emailing. Email is a reality of our lives, and not looking like it’s disappearing any time soon, so I thought I’d be real and face it head on. Whether you’re a blog reader or brand manager, these ideas can be applied across your daily internet activity.

1. Keep it short. 5 lines is great. As soon as I see an epically long email from someone who has never contacted me before I feel myself rolling my eyes. This goes for brands/PR outreach too! Think about it as an elevator pitch. There just aren’t enough hours in a day to read a novel. And here’s the catch, the shorter it and more to the point it is, the more likely I am to respond. From there the email can turn into an actual conversation with longer exchanges. Also, I look at email signatures all the time, which can be a good way for me to get lost in your work without you having to feel too much like a salesperson. I also always love learning about new designers or companies, so this is a good, easy way for me to explore.

2. My name is Anne. I’m a designer/blogger. Please don’t call me Ms. Ditmeyer – it makes me feel old. And I know my name isn’t that complicated, but no matter who you’re writing it’s always nice to get the right name and spell it correctly too. (This is not a given, it takes effort sometimes!). The way bloggers roll is that we have casual, friendly relationships. Formal emails turn me off and show you don’t really understand my style or what my site is about. The days of formal press releases are a bygone era.

3. Don’t tell me what to do. It’s a major turn off. On the other hand, feel free to send me awesome finds. I love crediting people. If it’s your own project, I’d love to hear about that too. There’s no need to ask/tell me to post about it; the fact you’re emailing me basically infers that. If it’s a good fit, trust me, I’ll make it heard. And if I don’t write about it, don’t take it personally. Often it’s just a matter of timing, but my brain is a giant file cabinet of ideas, people and resources. You may never know it, but I have a habit of sharing things behind the scenes as well.

4. Patience is golden. No where on my site does it say that I promise to respond to emails in 24 hours or less. Please understand I have a life, client projects, and often traveling. While it’s my habit to respond to emails super promptly (especially short, succinct ones), I also get backlogged sometimes. If you haven’t heard back in a week or two, feel free to check in with a friendly reminder. I’m only human – I do miss things, or just haven’t had a chance to look.

5. Respect the attachment. If you’re attaching something you want me to see, a jpg is ideal since I can see a little thumbnail straight away, which should make me want to click and know more. If you’re mature enough to be sending files in emails, you should also be mature enough to be sending items that are not so huge they’re going to explode my inbox (5Mb or less as a good rule of thumb, and you win a prize for keeping all attachments less than 1Mb). It’s easy to be lazy and send images as is, but trust me, the person on the other side will notice when you respect their time. Images for print and web are two different things, and 99% I’ll only need images for web, so they can be fairly small (like 600 – 1,000px wide). If I need a larger image for some reason, I’ll have your contact info and will be sure to be in touch. For big files services like yousendit.com, DropBox or WeTransfer – or just compressing your files into a .zip – are a great alternative to clogging ye old inbox. Also, note you probably are better off reaching out to the blogger first before turning them off with more files then they care to deal with. Use links – ideally as hyperlinks – to avoid attachments.

6. Say thank you. It’s totally fine to reach out to bloggers and ask them advice, just make sure you check their site first to see if they’re already answered your questions. Try to keep it focused and to the point, and make sure you do your research first (have they already written a post on this exact topic). I know so many bloggers who have been emailed about advice and send back really thoughtful emails that take time to write, but then hear nothing back. A “thanks so much!” goes a really long way. Whenever I can I always say “Thanks” as soon as I receive an email or get back from an event just to cover my bases in case it slips my mind later. Another thing to note too is that just because someone doesn’t tell you what you want to hear (ahem, my honest responses about life in France), doesn’t mean you are exempt from saying thanks either. You can never say thank you too much! Besides, you never know when your name will come up again (maybe for an awesome project), and you’ll be remembered because you made that little extra effort.

7. Do your homework. Don’t waste anyone’s time. This applies to everyone. We all know how busy we are, and in the internet age it’s really easy to shoot off an email lickety split, but take a deep breath, and make sure you’ve covered your bases. The internet has taught people to respect speed (now, me, want) rather than quality. And honestly, sometimes it feels like I’m doing someone else’s work for them. A thoughtfully crafted email will save so much time in the long run. Remember to do your homework and quality work takes time and patience, so be efficient in what you do and respect the time of others, especially if you’re asking them to do something for you. In that respect, keep realistic deadlines in mind if you’re asking for something.

8. Don’t be creepy. Meeting people you talk to online is totally normal in this day and age. I keep a busy schedule, but I meet new people thanks to my blog and twitter all the time. The reality is most of the time it’s just a natural progression of events and you don’t have to try to hard to make it happen. A good rule of thumb when reaching out to someone is to think about what kind of email you’d want to receive. (And of course follow the rules above). It’s always good to reference a blog post or the work of the person you’re contacting or show you’re a fan (flattery is good, especially with a personal touch), but also be carefully to not get too worship-y (it can be a turn off sometimes). Also realize that bloggers tend to put a lot of their life online, but if you don’t have a website or online presence that they can see or click over to (just having it in the signature of your email is fine), it can feel a bit one-sided in a weird way.

9. Be human, not a machine. I email people all the time for my various freelance gigs, and often reach out to people for the first time. Being yourself goes a long way, and you can get a lot accomplished in a short email, but it’s also nice to know and appreciate the person on the other side who is taking the time to respond to you. In this respect, once again you can never say thank you enough. Email can get old quick too, so humor adds a nice bit of “realness.”

10. Look to the experts. This Design*Sponge Biz Ladies post asks design bloggers to share their advice for getting published on their sites, but the responses apply across the board and are good to keep in mind when emailing or pitching an idea. Similarly Sara Rosso has a post about How to Ask for Help… and Get an Answer. If you’re really nervous about contacting someone for the first time, run it by a friend or family member and get their take. Just remember to keep the tips above in mind. No one ever said professionalism has to be stodgy.

To sum it up, this is a LONG post to say keep things short, simple, personal and to the point. Anything to add? Please share any thoughts in the comments below.

UPDATE: For more advice on keeping emails to the point, don’t miss the email charter and five.sentenc.es.

p.s. Brand new Boarding Pass next week. Catch up with past editions in the archives.

26 comments

  • Lindsey, You should! ;) SO many PRs are in the camp of “I know I’m supposed to be working with bloggers but I don’t know how/why.” Clearly they are not ready just yet!

    A friendly response could be, “Thanks for your email. I don’t think it’s a good fit at this time, but for future outreach you may want to consider reading this post [link]. …. Best wishes, [name]

    Anne

  • This is brilliant and so well written. Thank you, Anne!
    I get a lot of “Dear Chez” emails (which does make me laugh, but obviously means they haven’t read my about page) and think I’ve only received 2 or 3 Thank You emails in response to helpful advice about moving to France. That drives me crazy! It only takes a moment!

    I hope many, many people read this and follow your advice.

  • Dear Chez… I mean Jennifer! I know, I hear you on the complete lack of reply/acknowledgement/thanks. Hence I keep trying to build as many resources on my blog as possible so I just have to send the link.

    Thanks, Ann Mah! I 100% agree this advice applies to everyone… My client work was slower all month due to vacations, but email kept me so busy! This is an attempt to get everyone on the same page so I can put my energy to the projects and creating better work.

    Anne

  • #3 reminds me when there are messages for things that I might truly be interested in. But then they end the pitch with – “…and we look forwarding to reading about it on your blog.”

    …which kills it right away.

  • Another thing I should have added is not only call me by my first name, but make sure to take the time to find the name of the person you’re contacting. True, it’s not always possible, but 9 times out of 10 it will be there! DO YOUR HOMEWORK! (And spell it right).

    Hi Anne will go much further than “Hi!” (oh I must have been cc:ed with a million others).

    A

  • Thanks, Lauren! Email etiquette is definitely part of professionalism that could/should be taught (professors would probably be less annoyed too!).

    —-

    On more note I thought to add to is regarding rejection. I think people would rather have an honest answer (doesn’t need a life story) rather than being in limbo or becoming a stalker to get an answer out of you. Email is all about being real.

    A

  • I love this post. As a fellow blogger I agree with everything you say and I am glad that we are obviously all on the same page. I don’t know whether anyone else has a particular problem with emails from potential guest bloggers? They seem to all use the same, awfully written, email template which every time has exactly the opposite response to what they are looking for! Why would I want to publish a guest post by someone who can’t even compose an email without typos and grammar errors?! :/ The Moving Foodie (www.movingfoodie.com)

  • The Moving Foodie, totally know what you’re talking about. It’s one of those situations too that I feel like they’re getting paid to do really poor outreach and expect me to do the grunt work and it’s like they’re doing me a favor. No thank you. And if this is what the outreach is like, can you imagine what that guest post would look like !?!?!

    A

  • Dear Prêt,
    Dear A,
    Dear Voyager….
    Dear Anne!
    Many thanks for that post. I hope no bloggers ever received emails as the ones you mention but it’s always good to have some reminders sometimes. I’m often adressed as “dear Rue”.
    You might receive a short, friendly (but not too much), straight to the point mail from me soon :-)
    Merci encore
    Amandine (rueamandine.com)

  • I can’t resist the urge to comment. These are issues across industries, not just blogging. People would encourage more helpful responses by doing their homework, being polite, to the point and by taking that extra step to edit their writing.

  • I 100% agree, H. I hope people will share this post with others and help spread the word. As many have pointed out most of it feels like common sense – but clearly it’s not!

    Cheers,
    Anne

    • Thanks, Daisy! There’s so much great info out in the world, but people are missing it. I’d love to make what I know into a biz (in my style, of course)…. The press releases I get these days are long, ugly, and out of date. 5 sentences = magic!

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